Prof. Dr. Mark Lutter


Research Projects


Transnational Diffusion of Innovation

Understanding how innovation emerges and diffuses is increasingly important in a globalized society. What factors influence and shape the diffusion of innovations among individuals, networks, organizations, and societies? How do new forms of organization, policies, techniques, cultural ideas and norms, tastes, and fashions spread? By examining these phenomena, this research project seeks to develop an empirically informed sociological theory of diffusion. Of particular interest is the analysis of "social" processes and their effects on diffusion, i.e., how social contagion, interaction, networks, and forms of social capital, or, more generally, the social embeddedness of action, affect diffusion outcomes over time.

Selected publications:

Fernández, Juan J. / Mark Lutter. 2013. "Supranational cultural norms, domestic value orientations and the diffusion of same-sex union rights in Europe, 1988–2009." International Sociology 28:102-120.

Lutter, Mark. 2010. "Zur Erklärung von Diffusionsprozessen. Das Beispiel der Einführung staatlicher Lotterien in den USA." Zeitschrift für Soziologie 39:363-381.


"Winner-Take-All" Markets in the Creative Industries

In winner-take-all markets, the goods and services offered differ only slightly in quality, but their success on the market is extremely disparate. The number of winners is scant compared to the legions of losers. In this market, performance, quality and talent do not translate proportionately into success - performance and success go their separate ways. An artist earning more than one hundred times the average income does not necessarily have a hundred times more talent. Because the chances of succeeding are so small, the likelihood of earning an above-average income - or of surviving on the market at all - is slim. What motivates the people who decide to venture into these markets? What factors influence their decision to invest? How do winner-take-all markets evolve? This research project aims to answer these questions both theoretically and empirically, focusing primarily on the social forces behind the development of these markets and their participants’ vastly uneven prospects for success. Empirically, the project examines markets in the creative industries, drawing on structural data from the film industry and standardized surveys of artists, musicians, actors, and other creative professionals.

Selected publications:

Lutter, Mark. 2015. "Do Women Suffer from Network Closure? The Moderating Effect of Social Capital on Gender Inequality in a Project-based Labor Market, 1929-2010." American Sociological Review 80(2):329-358.

Lutter, Mark. 2013. "Strukturen ungleichen Erfolgs. Winner-take-all-Konzentrationen und ihre sozialen Entstehungskontexte auf flexiblen Arbeitsmärkten." Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 65:597-622.

Lutter, Mark. 2012. "Anstieg oder Ausgleich? Die multiplikative Wirkung sozialer Ungleichheiten auf dem Arbeitsmarkt für Filmschauspieler." Zeitschrift für Soziologie 41:435-457.


Forbes 400: The Super Rich in the United States (with Jens Beckert and Philipp Korom)

While wealth ownership in the US has long been strongly concentrated in the hands of a small minority of the population, researchers have paid relatively little attention to the richest segment of the population. The super rich, however, are critical to understanding important aspects of inequality and social mobility. The Forbes 400 list has evolved into the prevailing image of wealth in the US since its launch in 1982. Every year it measures and presents the levels of wealth of the super rich. It is often perceived as a unique product of its time, capturing an era of unusual entrepreneurial vigor. In 1982 only 13 billionaires were on the list. In 2013 the threshold for being listed was set at 1.3 billion US dollars. Only little is known about how this wealth is generated. Is it inherited or self-made? Which are the key wealth industries? Is wealth really based on meritocratic principles? This project examines the development of the Forbes 400 group over the past four decades. It aims to present an overview of transformations in the US economy by focusing on how the socio-demographic and economic structures of the super rich have developed.


Demand Structure and Distributional Effects of the Lottery in Germany (with Jens Beckert)

With an annual turnover of over 25 billion euros, the gambling market is a significant factor in the German economy. Along with casinos, the lottery is the largest single market. The lottery is exceptional as a market because the commodity traded in it has an expected negative monetary utility for consumers. Since less than 50 percent of the receipts are distributed as winnings, lottery tickets have a lower expected utility than their purchase price. How can it be that there is demand on this market? Four different explanatory approaches are to be tested within the framework of the project: the meaning of irrational decision motives, functionalist theories of tension management, approaches proceeding from the situation-determined rationality of buying a lottery ticket, and network-analytical explanations emphasizing the social second-order effects of playing the lottery (contact possibilities). In comparison with the USA, the project also investigates the prevalent normative perspectives on playing the lottery and examines ist possible redistributional effects. This raises the question of whether lottery ticket taxation can be seen to produce regressive distributional effects. A representative survey will be conducted in Germany to provide data for the project.

Selected publications:

Beckert, Jens / Mark Lutter. 2013. "Why the Poor Play the Lottery: Sociological Approaches to Explaining Class-based Lottery Play." Sociology 47:1152-1170.

Beckert, Jens / Mark Lutter. 2009. "The Inequality of Fair Play. Lottery Gambling and Social Stratification in Germany." European Sociological Review 25:475-488.

Beckert, Jens / Mark Lutter. 2007. "Wer spielt, hat schon verloren? Zur Erklärung des Nachfrageverhaltens auf dem Lottomarkt." Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 59:240-270.


Prof. Dr. Mark Lutter - Research Projects | [Last update 20.03.2012]